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Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
I was reading on Facebook from another preacher asking whether or not the storms on March 2 was God trying to get a message across to us. Now I know this minister to be a good man, but I knew what he was insinuating. He was saying that God sent these storms as punishment for our sins or to get us to turn to Him. Now I do believe that at times God can do anything He wants, and I also believe that God can use anything to get His point across, but we must be careful how we lay blame for things like this. Was the tornado God’s fault? Now I am a weather nerd, and when asked to describe what weather is, I would always say that it is basically the Earth’s atmosphere trying to balance itself out. The sun doesn’t heat the Earth equally, and so the Earth tries to balance that heat as best it can. This is why we have weather patterns that move. Now of course there is much more to it, but the point is that a thunderstorm is simply an extreme case of these atmospheric principles at work. And a tornado is an extreme case of these same principles.
The same weather patterns that give us nice, sunny days are also the weather patterns that give us stormy days. These systems are always at work. In the text for today, Jesus is telling the crowds that they should not assume that the people who died were guilty of some sin. Instead, Jesus said that we are all guilty and we should all repent. It wasn’t God sending a message, but it was a chance for the people to see their need during that trial. God didn’t do it, but God can use it.
So is God to blame for the storms? No. No more than He is to blame for the drunk driver, the cancer, the fire, or the divorce. The storms were caused by the weather patterns that resulted in this particularly dangerous set up. Now can God use these weather patterns to speak to us? Yes. Just like He can use any situation to draw us closer to Him. But that doesn’t mean that He causes the pain and suffering around us. And can God be at work in the aftermath of the storms? You better believe it. We see it with all the volunteers at work helping others. We see it in how God is at work drawing people closer to Him through this. We see it in the community drawing together, and priorities reshuffled.
As one of my mentors used to tell me, “Barry, be careful what you lay at the doorstep of the Lord.” Before we attribute disasters to God, we better make for sure that we know it is the Lord’s doing, and we are not falsely accusing Him of causing the pain and suffering around us.
(Barry Robinson is the pastor of Williamstown United Methodist Church. He can be reached at email@example.com or call 859-823-5171.)